Donate to "Take a Seat" at CHS this Holiday Season

Achieve Foundation is raising funds to renovate the Columbia High School auditorium to its former glory.


Still looking for a holiday gift? Here’s something that is local, meaningful and will impact generations of South Orange - Maplewood students for years to come.  

Since 2010, the Achieve Foundation has been partnering with the South Orange -Maplewood School District (SOMSD) in the Take a Seat (TAS) campaign to renovate the Columbia High School (CHS) auditorium.

Donors can choose to honor or dedicate a seat to someone – a teacher, family member, coach, principal, graduate, or a group or organization -- to contribute to the fundraising effort. 

The $1.3 million project will upgrade features of the 85-year-old performance hall while restoring it to its former splendor, according to Achieve. The campaign aims to raise enough to fill the gap between the $1 million the school district has allotted for the project and the total amount required for the renovation.

Since 2012, Achieve has raised roughly $150,000 toward its goal of $350,000 and is seeking to raise additional funds needed by May 2013.

"The Arts are as essential to a child's development as the very air we breathe,” said Tony award winning actor and Maplewood resident Christine Ebersole, TAS’s honorary chairperson. “I am convinced if we let our children create a school curriculum, many hours of the day would be filled with music and art, dance and theatre. Ah, what a wonderful world it would be! 

There are three levels to donate to get a seat in the auditorium:

  • Sustainer - $150 (rear section)
  • Innovator - $300 (middle section)
  • Founder - $500 (front section)

There are also the following underwriter levels:

  • Bronze:  $1,000 - $2,499
  • Silver: $2,500 - $4,999
  • Gold: $5,000 - $9,999
  • Diamond: $10,000 - $24,999
  • Campaign Leaders:  $25,000 +

There are also underwriting opportunities for particular project components.

The district has been repairing the auditorium slowly over the last decade, but much more work is needed. The 1,052-seat hall, which is the largest in suburban Essex county, will start being renovated in June 2013, and is scheduled to be completed in 2014.

Once completed, the space will benefit not just the students and faculty who take part in the high school’s performing arts program, but it will also serve as a modern space for community groups to host performances and events.

"I wholeheartedly believe that restoring CHS's auditorium will mean much more than simply giving a room within the high school a 'facelift,'” said Marietta Zacker of Achieve. “It will give the community a central location...to come together and enjoy performing and visual arts, it will give the educators a place of inspiration and a place to be even more innovative."

Zacker continued, "Ultimately, and most importantly, it will give our children and young adults an uplifting place to learn so that they may express themselves in unimaginable ways. What we are doing will be transformative in the education of all our children."

Here is a list of improvements:

  • Rebuilt and reupholstered seats will restore full audience capacity, improve comfort, and preserve the traditional appearance of the hall.
  • New wood flooring and carpeting will transform the venue’s worn look.
  • Audio and acoustical upgrades will deliver the sound needed to accommodate the school’s ambitious musicals and multi-media presentations.
  • New LED house lighting will replicate original ceiling panels, add variable setting options, dramatically enhance the appearance of the hall, and reduce energy costs.
  • Period chandeliers, replicating those that were originally hung, will highlight the classic aesthetic.
  • Digitally controlled stage lighting will improve visibility and enable the advanced special effects the school is known for.
  • Floor lights at seat rows will be an added safety feature.
  • Balcony repair will restore the use of an additional 152 seats.
  • A permanent sound booth will secure valuable equipment and will be finished to match the surrounding paneled walls. 

To donate or dedicate a seat to TAS, visit Achieve’s web site at achievefoundation.org or email TakeaSeat@achievefoundation.org.



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